Every year, on the 8th of March, we celebrate International Women’s Day. Its importance in history is fundamental in order to remember the long journey that the female gender has had to face over the centuries, characterised by political, social and economic conquests in order to have an equal place in the world.
Several companies organise events and initiatives in view of this date, providing special conventions for women all over the world. One of these is by the Ministero della Cultura and provides free entry to several state museums for women.
The origin of International Women’s Day sees the coexistence of different theories; each of which is linked to historical events concerning women’s social struggle. We are certain that this day of celebration has its roots in the early 1900s, in a climate characterised by political revolutions and the claiming of women’s rights.
In 1909, the Socialist Party of America launched the idea of establishing an all-women’s day and from then on, every country chose a symbolic date to dedicate to women. Furthermore, on 8 March 1911, a group of 123 workers in a New York textile factory died in a fire during a demonstration for women’s rights. Among them were many immigrant women who only wanted to improve their living conditions. In 1921, a single international date, 8 March, was devised. In Italy the first International Women’s Day was celebrated on 22 March 1922.
Stages of female social conquest
As we mentioned in the previous paragraph, women’s role in society has for years been the victim of injustice and discrimination. Women have been able to fight for their rights, which is why several symbolic days have been established in memory of their major social achievements.
On 2 June 1946, women were allowed to vote in political elections, and on 9 December 1977, the much sought-after equality at work was recognised. On 22 May 1978, the Abortion Act was introduced, allowing women to terminate a pregnancy voluntarily. On 30 May 2003, gender equality became a constitutional principle and on 19 July 2019, the Code Red against violence against women was created.
These are just a few of the many victories for women, but attention to the topic is growing year by year.
The current conditions of Italian women
To get an idea of the overall picture, in 2021 the Italian population was close to 59 million. The female population is larger than the male population by about 1,5 million (30,4 million females and 28,9 million males). Despite this, women have had to make a lot of progress to achieve gender equality; for several centuries they have been victims of harmful stereotypes such as discrimination and unparalleled physical and psychological violence.
There are still gaps between men and women: in Italy in 2020 about 35% of women worked part-time and this figure was more than double that of men. As of today, the number of women employed in Italy is 9,6 million; of these, 112 work in Parliament.
According to more recent data, less than one woman in two works in Italy. As reported in the Gender Balance 2021, female employment has dropped to 49% and the gap with male employment is 18,2%. Young women in employment account for 33,5% but the unemployment rate is growing (from 27,9% to 29,3%). Women forced into involuntary part-time work (they make do despite looking for a full-time job) are 61,2%, compared to 60,8% in 2019. (data: Neet)
The symbolic flower: the mimoses
The most symbolic element of 8 March is the mimoses — or mimosa. With their famous bright and cheerful yellow flowers were imported to Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. They are supposed to bloom at the end of winter, so mimosas, with their bright yellow colour, mark the end of the cold and the beginning of spring. The symbolic meaning of these flowers has always been strength and femininity. In 1946, three women deputies of the Italian Communist Party (Teresa Noce, Rita Montagnana and Teresa Mattei) chose the mimosa as the official symbol of International Women’s Day. The reasons are simple: the flowering season and the low cost of the flower. Another fundamental element is the colour which, in its symbolic language, represents the passage from death to life and automatically becomes a metaphor for women who have fought for gender equality.
According to the Associazione Florovivaisti Italiani, in 2021 mimosas were sold at 11 euros per kilo, with a turnover of around 15 million euros (+20% on 2020). Due to the pandemic, we are seeing a slight contraction of the product due to uncertainty, with a 20% drop in the harvest. This plant alone, symbol of Women’s Day, is worth 85% of seasonal purchases in the annual flower market.
In addition, every year on the occasion of 8 March, Donne in Campo relaunch the campaign “Piantiamola!”, which invites all citizens to go to an Italian nursery to buy a seed of their choice: the aim is to make an ecological gesture but also to send a symbolic message against gender discrimination.